Call for protection of persons with disabilities during humanitarian emergencies

Call for protection of persons with disabilities during humanitarian emergencies

Addressing the needs of persons with disabilities during natural disasters and armed conflicts is one of the main issues to be discussed during the Third Session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is being held from 1-3 September at UN Headquarters in New York.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights Pillar Navarethem highlighted that this year has seen many humanitarian emergencies around the world, notably the earthquakes and tsunamis in Chile and China and most recently the floods in Pakistan. “Human rights considerations are often neglected in such crisis and their relevance is questioned as a priority in the planning and implementation of relief operations. It must not be so. These devastating crises remind us that more has to be done to ensure the protection of persons with disabilities in situations of risk,” she said.

The debate will aim at jump-starting efforts to guarantee the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in crises situations as mandated by the Convention. Participants are also expected to discuss ways to ensure that persons with disabilities are fully integrated in the life of their community and that their educational needs are adequately considered.

During the opening session, Under-Secretary-General Sha Zukang called to “recommit ourselves to the need of this large and diverse population” and to strengthen the programs that will enrich their gifts, talents and abilities. In addition, he urged all member states to sign, ratify and implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The Convention was adopted by the General Assembly in December 2006 and it is the first comprehensive human rights treaty of the twenty-first century. So far it has been signed by 146 states and ratified by 90 and some governments have taken important measures towards implementation. “These results represent remarkable progress and a clear knowledge by member states that policies and programmes at national level need urgent addressing,” added Mr. Sha.

States parties are meeting for the third time since the Convention entered into force in May 2008. This three-day session, under the theme “Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities through the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities” will also include the election of members of the Committee.

As the number of States parties has grown, the Committee, initially composed of 12 members, will be expanded to 18 in accordance with the provisions of the Convention. These independent experts are tasked to review periodic reports from States parties, raise concerns, if necessary, and make recommendations.

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